Ramadan is the perfect month to learn more about our Muslim neighbors
As the fasting month of Ramadan approaches, the world’s nearly 2 billion Muslims are preparing to focus, once again, on the Quran. Nightly gatherings of the faithful are a beloved tradition—especially to hear the Quran recited by a qari, or expert at chanting the Quran for audiences following traditional styles.
Of course, Ramadan “gatherings” have been carefully adapted for safety during the COVID pandemic for a second year. Many communities programs now are virtual and most festive evening meals after the day-long fast are limited to smaller family groups. (For more news about Ramadan 2021, see our Holidays column by Stephanie Fenton.)
Why is it so important to experience the words of the Quran during Ramadan? Islam is a faith founded through a revelation from God that began with the one-word command,
The Quran also tells believers that God teaches through
In fact, for many centuries, Muslim scholars, mathematicians, physicians, engineers and especially writers were the envy of Europeans who were trying to catch up with the advances they saw in the Middle East and northern Africa. Just this month, April 2021, The New York Times published an Op Ed column about the role of a pioneering Muslim writer in inspiring Daniel Defoe to write his classic, Robinson Crusoe. That Arab-Muslim writer was Ibn Tufail, who was and still is largely unknown in the West—except among those European scholars and writers like Defoe who borrowed from his work.
This is a religious tradition that teaches the pen is mightier than the sword. And, that is why our publishing house has included stories by and about Muslims since our founding a decade ago.
To learn more about the specific Ramadan traditions, our most appropriate book is Najah Bazzy’s, The Beauty of Ramadan. This book is a detailed guide to these sacred customs, written for Muslims and non-Muslims as well. The book is useful for teachers, students, small-group leaders and professionals working to promote diversity.
Please Meet the Neighbors
For an engaging, real-life story of how Muslim families experience daily life in the U.S.—including the fasting month of Ramadan—you’ll enjoy Victor Begg’s memoir, Our Muslim Neighbors: Achieving the American Dream, An Immigrant’s Memoir.
“We need stories of our Muslim neighbors like Victor Begg to break down the walls that separate us and to educate us about those who might seem so strange, at first, but might become heart friends if given the chance,” writes the Rev. Daniel L. Buttry in the book’s Preface. “Along the way, we might discover some true American heroes. Victor is just such a hero: selfless, ordinary, but willing to risk to make our nation and our world a better place.”
That’s appropriate because Buttry also is one of our authors—a global peacemaker who is dedicated to sharing true stories of pacemakers from many religious traditions, including Islam. In the four books we have published with Dan, he always includes what he likes to call
interfaith heroes from all of the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Dan also reaches far beyond those three faiths—but, these days, he regularly talks about the importance of combating Islamophobia.
In one of his online columns, he writes:
With refugees and immigrants filling the news as well as the shrill voices of fear and inhospitableness, we need to increase the voices of the counter-narratives and ethical challenges for hospitable responses.
We agree with Dan.
Got Questions? We’ve Got Answers!
We have worked closely with the Michigan State University School of Journalism to include 100 Questions & Answers about Muslim Americans in their popular MSU series of guides to cultural competence.
This guide has sections on culture, language, religions, social norms, politics, history, politics, families and food. The guide is intended for people in business, schools, places of worship, government, medicine, law enforcement, human resources and journalism-anywhere it is important to know more about communities. Since its publication, this book has been used by individuals and groups nationwide.
Some of the 100 questions are: What is the difference between Islam and Muslim? Who is Muhammad? What are the fundamental components of Islam? What is the Quran? What does Islam say about Jesus? How are Islam, Christianity and Judaism connected?
How Are We All Connected?
What do the three Abrahamic faiths share? The MSU book, mentioned above, includes a short answer to that question among its 100 questions and answers.
Then, thanks to peace activist and author Brenda Rosenberg, we published a book-length exploration of the connections—with proven ideas for actually bringing Jews, Christians and Muslims together.
In fact, the news story about the launch of Brenda’s book in January 2019 quickly became one of the most-read stories in our ReadTheSpirit magazine. Since that story was published, Brenda has continued to work with Girl Scouts to expand interfaith programs for young women.
Her book is designed with a focus on youth, so it unfolds through short, easy-to-read sections that describe the model for interfaith relationships that Brenda has built over the years. In 2021, this book continues to guide her work with young people of all faith traditions.
And to our Muslim readers this month: Ramadan Mubarak!